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Is Viva Energy REIT (ASX:VVR) At Risk Of Cutting Its Dividend?

Simply Wall St

Today we'll take a closer look at Viva Energy REIT (ASX:VVR) from a dividend investor's perspective. Owning a strong business and reinvesting the dividends is widely seen as an attractive way of growing your wealth. Unfortunately, it's common for investors to be enticed in by the seemingly attractive yield, and lose money when the company has to cut its dividend payments.

In this case, Viva Energy REIT pays a decent-sized 5.6% dividend yield, and has been distributing cash to shareholders for the past two years. It's certainly an attractive yield, but readers are likely curious about its staying power. When buying stocks for their dividends, you should always run through the checks below, to see if the dividend looks sustainable.

Explore this interactive chart for our latest analysis on Viva Energy REIT!

ASX:VVR Historical Dividend Yield, May 17th 2019

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Payout ratios

Companies (usually) pay dividends out of their earnings. If a company is paying more than it earns, the dividend might have to be cut. Comparing dividend payments to a company's net profit after tax is a simple way of reality-checking whether a dividend is sustainable. In the last year, Viva Energy REIT paid out 107% of its profit as dividends. A payout ratio above 100% is definitely an item of concern, unless there are some other circumstances that would justify it.

We also measure dividends paid against a company's levered free cash flow, to see if enough cash was generated to cover the dividend. With a cash payout ratio of 107%, Viva Energy REIT's dividend payments are poorly covered by cash flow.

REITs like Viva Energy REIT often have different rules governing their distributions, so a higher payout ratio on its own is not unusual.


We update our data on Viva Energy REIT every 24 hours, so you can always get our latest analysis of its financial health, here.

Dividend Volatility

One of the major risks of relying on dividend income, is the potential for a company to struggle financially and cut its dividend. Not only is your income cut, but the value of your investment declines as well - nasty. The dividend has not fluctuated much, but with a relatively short payment history, we can't be sure this is sustainable across a full market cycle. During the past two-year period, the first annual payment was AU$0.053 in 2017, compared to AU$0.14 last year. This works out to be a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of approximately 63% a year over that time.

Viva Energy REIT has been growing its dividend quite rapidly, which is exciting. However, the short payment history makes us question whether this performance will persist across a full market cycle.

Dividend Growth Potential

Examining whether the dividend is affordable and stable is important. However, it's also important to assess if earnings per share (EPS) are growing. Over the long term, dividends need to grow at or above the rate of inflation, in order to maintain the recipient's purchasing power. Viva Energy REIT has grown its EPS 149% over the past 12 months. We're glad to see EPS up on last year, but we're conscious that growth rates typically slow as companies increase in size. Earnings per share have been growing very rapidly, although the company is also paying out virtually all of its profit in dividends. While EPS could grow fast enough to make the dividend sustainable, in this type of situation, we'd want to pay extra attention to any fragilities in the company's balance sheet. We do note though, one year is too short a time to be drawing strong conclusions about a company's future prospects.

Conclusion

Dividend investors should always want to know if a) a company's dividends are affordable, b) if there is a track record of consistent payments, and c) if the dividend is capable of growing. It's a concern to see that the company paid out such a high percentage of its earnings and cashflow as dividends. We were also glad to see it growing earnings, although its dividend history is not as long as we'd like. In summary, Viva Energy REIT has a number of shortcomings that we'd find it hard to get past. Things could change, but we think there are a number of better ideas out there.

Companies that are growing earnings tend to be the best dividend stocks over the long term. See what the 4 analysts we track are forecasting for Viva Energy REIT for free with public analyst estimates for the company.

If you are a dividend investor, you might also want to look at our curated list of dividend stocks yielding above 3%.

We aim to bring you long-term focused research analysis driven by fundamental data. Note that our analysis may not factor in the latest price-sensitive company announcements or qualitative material.

If you spot an error that warrants correction, please contact the editor at editorial-team@simplywallst.com. This article by Simply Wall St is general in nature. It does not constitute a recommendation to buy or sell any stock, and does not take account of your objectives, or your financial situation. Simply Wall St has no position in the stocks mentioned. Thank you for reading.